, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp 335-346
Date: 30 Aug 2012

Neonatal Thyroxine Supplementation for Transient Hypothyroxinemia of Prematurity

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Extremely low birth-weight newborns (<1000g) experience low levels of thyroid hormone that vary inversely with the severity of neonatal illness and the extent of developmental immaturity with levels reaching a nadir at ≈7 days after birth; this phenomenon can persist for several weeks. In the absence of transplacental passage, 30–50% of these neonates cannot generate sufficient quantities of thyroid hormone to meet postnatal demands, placing them at an increased risk for developmental delay and cerebral palsy. Population surveys and interventional trials suggest that a therapeutic opening exists during a ‘window of opportunity’ corresponding to this period of diminished capacity. Variables to consider before intervention focus on the consideration that supplementation of both the substrate thyroxine and the active hormone triiodothyronine may be necessary in quantities that do not suppress thyroid-stimulating hormone release, yet overcome the persistence of increased conversion to 3,3′5′-triodo-L-thyronine, terminal deiodination, and activity of the sulfation inactivation pathways, as well as the diminished capacity of the newborn to accommodate postnatal physiologic changes. Single daily replacement doses may suppress levels of converting enzymes in the brain, suggesting that physiologic ‘mimicry’ provided by a constant infusion may be the preferred dosing option. Properly powered clinical trials targeting long-term developmental outcomes are needed to discern whether these interventions will do more than simply elevate blood levels of thyroid hormones to the target values of either the fetus or developing neonate. Identifying the appropriate indications for supplementation may alleviate individual pain and distress due to disability for several hundred extremely low birth-weight neonates each year in the US alone, and save society a pro-rated lifetime cost of nearly $US1 million per child.